This initially appeared in August 2017 issue of Top Sales World.
By Peter Gillett, CEO of Zuant
How to take Lead Acquisition out of the stone age.
Despite the explosion of MarTech and SalesTech tools on the market today, the exhibition industry has remained largely stuck in the Stone Age. Compare advancements in exhibitor technologies to those in marketing automation, which are being introduced at alarming rates. Is this stark difference in innovation because event organizers already employ a successful formula and have no incentive to change? More likely it is because exhibitors are clear in their mission. They understand that the goal of exhibiting is to drive sales revenue.
In today’s global & highly digital world, meeting face-to-face with prospects and customers is becoming harder and more expensive. This reality is creating a major resurgence in trade shows.
Why it Matters
"Smart exhibition organizers are beginning to understand that the more high quality leads their exhibitors capture during the event, the happier and more they will be likely to return in following years."
An effective mobile lead capture system is paramount to driving sales revenue from a tradeshow. Light pens and barcode scanners have been the norm since I started going to events four decades ago! When these tools first came out, they were quite innovative, but today scanning a badge to obtain limited contact details for which you wait for several days to receive, is beyond archaic.
The desire to deliver better ROI to exhibitors in the form of lead capture has been driving Zuant’s product development for the last decade. Over the years our clients consistently report two main challenges:
1. The need to use a different lead capture system at each show, thus adding complexity and re-training for show workers at each show.
2. The huge cost of renting multiple scanners - thousands of dollars for something pretty basic.
To solve these issues, we created a ‘Swiss Army Knife’ of a product, which accommodates all badge systems at shows around the world. This enables our clients to scan QR codes, other 2-D and 1D barcodes, and also NFC cards.
Zuant is the core system used to prequalify leads, present videos and literature, email prospects and then ensure that the data can be quality checked and integrated with downstream CRM and marketing automation systems. Not rocket science, but a major step beyond what is normally available for exhibitors.
As we discover more effective ways to capture leads we continue to evaluate and adopt newer and better ways of doing this. Here are several innovative technologies we see on the horizon:
Although barcode badge scanning is the norm, from an exhibitors’ point of view, NFC (Near Field Communication) is one of the best products available now. Presumably due to cost, it does seem to be restricted to IT and Telco shows such as Barcelona’s Mobile World Congress. I believe it will become more commonplace when Apple opens up the use of the NFC scanning option with the forthcoming iOS 11 release this Fall. This means that exhibitors will be able to use both Apple and Android devices for NFC scanning, which should enable this technology to become more widespread.
iBeacon is another technology we’ve been watching. It’s a protocol developed by Apple and introduced at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference in 2013. Once again, it’s not restricted to Apple and is available on other platforms like Android. Various vendors have since made iBeacon-compatible hardware transmitters – a class of Bluetooth low energy (BLE) devices that broadcast their identifier to nearby devices. The technology enables smartphones, tablets and other devices to perform actions when in close proximity to an iBeacon.
By transmitting a universally unique identifier picked up by a compatible app or operating system, iBeacons determine the device's physical location, track customers, and trigger a location-based action on the device such as a check-in to a booth, an update on social media or a push notification.
Another application is distributing messages at a specific point of interest in a booth. iBeacon, unlike other location-based technologies, is only a 1-way transmitter to the receiving smartphone or tablet, and necessitates a specific app installed on the device to interact with the beacons. This ensures only the installed app (not the iBeacon transmitter) can track users, potentially against their will, as they passively walk around the transmitters.
So, great potential here, but needs scale to be offered to event organizers in the future.
Radio-frequency identification (RFID) was the future once, but price and the intrusive nature of auto-tracking have been a worry. RFID uses electromagnetic fields to automatically identify and track tags attached to badges. The tags contain electronically stored information. Passive tags collect energy from a nearby RFID reader's interrogating radio waves. This makes it excellent for traffic flow monitoring around a show and can then be used by show organizers to sell booth space based on the best traffic locations.
One of our first Vegas shows for a large construction company featured RFID chips in the badges. We put that to good use by showing visitor traffic and dwell time in the booth as visitors looked at different products. By also mapping back to the Registration database, we were then able to telemarket visitors to the booth whom the sales guys had missed by normal lead retrieval. Great stuff, but requires major budget commitment.
So what other innovations are out there?
Facial recognition from Zenus is starting to look interesting. Facial recognition software allows event planners to identify attendees by searching a database of faces in real-time. Currently, it is the only cloud-based service capable of facial recognition from live video in real-world conditions.
An API integrates into existing event management platforms, enhancing the attendee journey from registration to check-in. Attendees register before the event with one click using their social media profiles. Alternatively, they can upload a picture or take a selfie with their own device.
Another innovation is Hiver. A smartphone app enables users to maximize time spent networking. It uses advanced geo-location technology together with powerful analytics to identify and automatically remember each interaction so users connect with people and follow-up directly.
When exhibitors arrive at an event, they login with their LinkedIn account via smartphone, join the event and leave the app running. Phones are left in purses or pockets and checked later for data interactions during the show, viewable in an easy to use timeline.
Hiver uses Bluetooth Smart, a highly secure technology based on social models about how humans engage and behave. Hiver helps networkers understand who they’ve engaged with in a given area and timeframe, and allows them to connect over LinkedIn.
Clearly what was once a business card stapled to a piece of paper on a clipboard is jumping into exciting new directions for both exhibitors and visitors alike. The bottomline on all of these innovations is they enhance the attendee experience, successfully capture leads and drive ROI.
About the Author:
Peter Gillett is CEO of Zuant where he’s responsible for driving product development and client roll-outs of the company’s award-winning Mobile Lead Capture app across US corporations. An entrepreneur and innovator, Peter created the world’s first web-based CRM system funded by Lucent Technologies in the 1990s. CRM, lead generation and follow-up are still the focus for Zuant and its network of NACCENT call centers around the globe. Contact Peter via email at Pete@Zuant.com